Ndaye Mulamba: The Footballer who Died Twice


On the 26th January 2019, the Congolese footballer Pierre Ndaye Mulamba passed away aged 70 in South Africa. He was born on the 4th November 1948 in Luluabourg (now Kananga), in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His life was both a legend and a tragedy, but indisputably one of extensive interest and deserving of recognition.


The highlight of Mulamba’s football career was undoubtedly his 1974 win at the African Nations Cup. He played for Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). In this tournament he scored nine goals, a record which still stands today. This turned him into a national treasure, gaining the nicknames Volvo, a tribute to the car, and Mutumbula, meaning assassin.

Also in 1974 he was captain of the first sub-Saharan African team to play in a World Cup. However, despite a promising first match against Scotland with a loss of 2-0, the team failed to perform against Yugoslavia, losing 9-0. Mulamba was given a red card early in the game after being falsely accused of kicking the referee. Team morale was low due to the failure of their country’s government, led by the totalitarian dictator Mobutu, to deliver on their promise of a $45,000 World Cup bonus. The team had no other source of income, and a 3-0 defeat in their match against Brazil caused Mobutu to hold the team captive upon their return for four days, before setting them free.


After the World Cup in 1974, Mulamba continued to play for AS Vita in Zaire until 1986. In 1994 he received an award at the African Nations Cup to commemorate his success at the same event in 1974. Upon his return home, four men in military uniforms broke into his house in the hope of him being a rich man. They took his medal, killed his son Tridon, and shot Mulamba in the leg. Since then he was wheelchair-bound, and he fled to Cape Town in 1996 after the outbreak of the First Congo War.

This was by no means the end of his story however, and in 1998 people thought he had died in a diamond mine accident in Angola. It turned out he had never even been to Angola, however one minute of silence was held in his memory at the African Nations Cup that year. He then lived the remainder of his days in South Africa, and married Nzwaki Qeqe, who was helping refugees in Cape Town.


Mulamba should be remembered for his tremendous contribution to African football. Also his refusal to give up on life, even after being shot and facing eviction from his home as he could not afford to pay rent. In his later years he played an active part in football coaching at local schools and clubs, and is an inspiration for the younger generation of footballers.



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